It’s been a while since I’ve ridden with full-on bar ends. All the rage back in the 1990s, mountain bikers have generally moved away from the branch-snagging bullhorns. SQlab Innerbarends offer a fresh take on the concept and I was curious to find out if they could improve my comfort and efficiency on long rides.
According to SQlab, “Moving the hand this far inward positions the elbows such that they can comfortably rest against your torso and also stretches the upper body position slightly more forward. This is both an aerodynamic and biomechanical advantage.” The brand goes on to suggest that traditional bar end usage faded over time as riser bars became more popular with riders. Singletracks tech editor Gerow has an equally likely theory that increasingly wider bars placed bullhorns farther out of riders’ reach, limiting their comfort and effectiveness.
Innerbarends are designed to be mounted just inside the grips, though I found that doing so with the Shimano I-Spec mount would place my brake lever and shifter too far out of reach. Instead I installed the Innerbarends between my main controls. Part of the idea behind mounting them between the grip and the brake lever is to make it easier to keep a finger on the brakes while holding onto the Innerbarends. It’s a nice idea, though I found that I mostly used the bar ends during the parts of the ride when there was little need to use the brakes, like grinding out climbs or mashing pedals on flat straightaways.
The 50mm-tall, fiber-reinforced plastic bar ends are shaped like a cylinder of Play-Doh that’s been lightly hand-squeezed. The shape feels great and seems to fit my hands well, though I can’t imagine all hand sizes will get along with the contours. I had some friends try gripping them and everyone seemed to find the shape to be a comfortable fit.
I didn’t want to go with a drop-bar front end for a recent bikepacking trip but I knew I wanted to have an additional hand position for the long days. The SQlab Innerbarends did place my hands in a similar, hands-on-the-hoods position. Of course with true drop bar hoods it’s possible to brake and shift. Still, they seem to offer a decent middle ground between flat bars and drop bars.
With the grips pointed toward the center of the bars I was also able to get into a slightly more aero position, which I found helpful for flat, pedally sections of fire road riding. My steering definitely felt less controlled, and to get in a more beneficial aero position I would prefer the Innerbarends to be about twice as long.
On multi-hour rides I really only gripped the Innerbarends for 5-10% of the time, and usually for about five minutes at a time. Even using them for that small amount of time did make a noticeable difference in my comfort at the end of the day.
SQlab says Innerbarends are useful for all types of riding, including enduro where riders might find them helpful for recovery on the transition stages. Personally I think casual bikepackers will get the most benefit out of them, followed by XC and trail riders who like to spend long hours in the saddle.
The SQlab Innerbarends are designed to fit a 22.2mm diameter bar which limits their placement to the area around the grip, rather than toward the stem. There’s no open clamp so installation requires completely removing grips and any other controls before sliding them into place and clamping down using a 5mm hex bolt. Innerbarends are about 20mm wide so they don’t take up a lot of bar space, though for many bikepackers bar space tends to be at a premium and every millimeter counts.
It didn’t take a lot of torque on the clamps to hold Innerbarends solidly in place on my carbon bars. Once installed I had no issue leaning my weight into them on particularly sloggish trail sections without any movement or rotation.
My test pair weighs 104.6g.
In their online product description SQlab writes rather matter-of-factly, “The Innerbarends® don’t weigh much, and aren’t in the way, so just give them a try!” As far as sale pitches go, it’s pretty low key but they have a point. Many of us can benefit from having an additional hand position on our bars, and Innerbarends offer a simple solution.
- Good hand feel
- Provides an alternative hand position for longer rides
- Lightweight and simple design
Pros and cons of the SQlab Innerbarends.
- Bar positioning may be limited due to brake and shift controls
- Closed clamp design slows installation
- Too short to get in a a truly aero position